If you want to save the world, you don’t need to be James Bond, Pierce Brosnan told the 2019 graduating class at Dickinson College in Carlisle on Sunday.
“As someone who has saved the world a few times, or at least played someone who has,” said the former James Bond actor, and environmental activist. “I’d like to offer you a bit of advice…Our world doesn’t need a Bond. Our world doesn’t need a lone hero, out to solve things solo. We need people from different disciplines and walks of life who are willing to work together, who can rely on one another, who can push forward, united.”
Speaking to nearly 600 graduates on the tree-shaded courtyard off West High Street in Carlisle, Brosnan said our planet is facing threats from rising sea levels to ocean acidification and polluted cities to wildlife loss. And our society also is struggling with growing economic inequality, he said, testing our democracy and the notion that through hard work anyone can find fulfillment.
The world doesn’t need a hero with a license to kill, Brosnan said.
“We need people who can create,” he said. “Our world needs you.”
Brosnan provided the commencement address at the historic private liberal arts college after he was presented with an honorary degree for his work protecting whales and marine life with the National Resources Defense Council, a nonprofit environmental advocacy group.
The advocacy group also won the annual Rose-Walters prize at Dickinson, for advancing responsible action on behalf of the planet, which comes with a $100,000 prize.
On Saturday, Brosnan was spotted at a coffee shop in Carlisle, where the owner posted a selfie taken with him, saying she was “star struck.”
The two-time Golden Globe nominee was among the latest high-profile guest invited to Carlisle to provide remarks at commencement exercises. Previous speakers include the “Avengers” star Mark Ruffalo, who is also an environmentalist, Madeline Albright, former secretary of state, and General David Patraeus, former CIA director.
In his 20-minute speech, Brosnan made several references to one of his biggest movie-star roles as James Bond. He said he hoped his comments would leave graduates, “shaken and stirred.”
“I know that all of you sitting here have faced your own challenges and that you have overcome them, all of you,” he said. You would not be here today were it otherwise. I have great confidence that you can tackle these global challenges with equal effectiveness.”
But wherever the graduates go after Dickinson College, he said, they won’t get there alone. Brosnan then shared some rarely-told tales of growing up in Ireland, being separated from his mother at the age of four, living in a room with two other “lodgers,” and later trying to assimilate in a new school in England where his classmates refused to call him “Pierce,” instead calling him simply, “Irish.”
“I wore it as an emblem of pride,” he said, “trying to find my footing in this new landscape of prejudice and racism…I learned to assimilate. It was, in some ways, my first acting job, to be someone else.”
Eventually, Brosnan said he found friends who accepted him, Irish brogue and all, who would call him by his first name. Those friends, the generosity of an Irish woman who helped raise him while his single mother pursued a nursing profession in England, and his mother’s sacrifice is what got him through his childhood, he said.
It can be easy to feel overwhelmed by challenges facing our world, he said, and in those moments, you need people you can count on.
“James Bond could not take on climate change alone,” he said. “But scientists and activists, policy makers and business leaders, all working together, they could. They can. If we hope to heal our world, we’ll need to do it together.”
Dickinson College alum Sam Rose, who graduated in 1958 and later helped start the Rose-Walters annual prize presented at commencement, said the world needed recent graduates to “succeed in a big way,” to combat climate change and attacks against women’s rights.
“When the last tree is cut and the last fish is caught and the last river is poisoned,” he said, “Only then will we realize you can’t eat money.”
The bulk of Dickinson graduates obtained bachelor of arts degrees (76 percent) while 24-percent obtained bachelor of science degrees. The most popular majors were international business & management, political science, international studies, economics and psychology.
Twelve seniors and one alumna have been awarded Fulbright scholarships, an institutional record.